This guest article from Psych Central was written by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Western culture views independence as a virtue. We’ve been taught that a truly strong person doesn’t need anybody to survive and thrive. But being attached to your partner is actually a good thing.
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In fact, a secure attachment underlies the strongest relationships. And both partners in such relationships tend to feel “calm, connected, centered and safe,” according to clinical psychologist Lisa Blum, PsyD, who specializes in Emotionally Focused Therapy and leads workshops for couples with her colleague Silvina Irwin, Ph.D. Also, a secure attachment helps partners as individuals, too. ““Good secure bonding helps you be bolder in the world and feel more empowered,” Blum said.
Founded by Drs. Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg, emotionally focused therapy or EFT draws on attachment theory, which asserts that humans are hardwired for strong emotional bonds with others. According to EFT, couples have relationship problems when they’ve “experienced emotional disconnection with their partner at key moments, which then leads to struggles” with negative cycles of criticism and anger (among other emotions and reactions). Therefore, the aim of EFT is to help couples overcome these negative cycles, re-establish their connection, and strengthen their emotional bond.
Research has shown that EFT is highly effective. “Seven out of 10 distressed couples [who seek EFT] show marked improvement, move out of distress and stay there,” Blum said. (The International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy website lists several noted research publications.)
What It Means To Be Securely Attached
A secure attachment signifies a successful relationship. So what does a securely attached couple look like? According to Blum, both partners in a secure relationship are able to tune into, identify and accept their own emotions and needs. They’re able to recognize when they’re feeling disconnected and distant from their partner and to speak candidly about their needs and emotions.
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Take the example of a wife who’s working on several big projects at work, which take her away from home more and more. Her husband understands and supports his wife. The first week he’s perfectly OK with the situation. The next week, though, he starts to get uncomfortable. By the third week, he’s angry and “prickly toward her.” At this point, he considers his feelings and behaviors. He realizes that he’s feeling lonely and like work has become his wife’s number one priority over him. He’s able to tune into his feelings, identify them and accept them, Blum said.
(On a side note, many people, especially men, feel ashamed about feeling lonely or needing their partner. Again, there’s an expectation in our society that we shouldn’t need anyone. But remember that we’re hardwired for closeness. So don’t put yourself down for these thoughts and reactions.)